Film Review: Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories (dir by Nathan Thomas Milliner, P.J. Starks, James Treakle, Sean Blevins, John William Holt, Jon Maynard, and Justin M. Seaman)


vob1

You may remember that, last year, I raved about an independent horror film called Volumes of Blood!  Did you take my advice and track it down?  DID YOU!?  It’s available on Amazon and, if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re running behind because the sequel has just been released.

Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories opens with the following warning:

vob

That warning pretty much tells you everything that you need to know.  Full of clever references and call backs to previous horror films, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories was made by people who love horror and it will be best appreciated by other horror lovers.  Like the first film, it earns the title Volumes of Blood because the blood never stops flowing.

Like the first film, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is an anthology film, telling 8 different but inter-connected stories of gore and horror.  Things start off with a nicely done little slasher parody called Murder Death Killer.  Directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner, Murder Death Killer deals with three small-time crooks who make the mistake of visiting a junkyard that’s haunted by the vengeful spirit of Atticus Crow.  Murder Death Killer is nicely directed, with Milliner exploiting that junkyard for every ounce of ominous atmosphere that it has.  One of the crooks, Mr. Dawson, is played by Thomas Dunbar, an actor who gives off a welcome Sid Haig vibe.

Murder Death Killer is followed by Haters, which is directed by the film’s producer, P.J. Starks.  Haters deals with two horror fans who, after watching a remake of Murder Death Killer (one that we’re told stars Vin Diesel and Eric Roberts), make the mistake of pissing off the wrong usher.  Haters features many references to my favorite part of the first Volumes of Blood, a fictional movie called The Dewey Deathimal System.

The atmospheric and gory Trick or Treat (directed by Sean Blevins) picks up directly where the first Volumes of Blood ended, with the town of Owensboro, Kentucky coming to terms with the massacre at the local library and the first film’s mysterious murderer continuing to seek fresh victims.  You’ll never look at candy corn the same way again.

Trick or Treat leads directly to Killer House (directed by James Treakle).  A mysterious realtor (played by Christopher Bower) leads a couple on a tour through a mysterious house.  The realtor is quite insistent on visiting the cellar but the couple wants to see the upstairs first.  However, regardless of where the tour leads, each room triggers a different story.  The highlight of Killer House is the wonderfully creepy performance of Christopher Bower.

Feeding Time (directed by John William Holt) is a nicely done little film about an insurance salesman who is desperate to make a sell on the day before Thanksgiving.  The house that he visits doesn’t appear to be occupied by anyone other than a mysterious teenage girl (Shelby Taylor Mullins, giving a memorably off-key performance) who swear that there’s a monster in her closet.

In Blood Bath (directed by Jon Maynard), a man fears that his bathtub may have eaten both his wife and his best friend.  Is the bathtub truly possessed or is the man just suffering the side effects from having forgotten to take his medicine?  Blood Bath will keep you guessing.

Fear, For Sinners Here (directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner) was my personal favorite of all the stories in Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.  On Christmas Eve, Carol (Jessica Schroeder) sits in her living room and she wraps presents while melancholy Christmas music plays on a record player.  Carol is wrapping toys for someone name “Joey.”  She’s sad, sometimes crying and sometimes growing angry.  I don’t want to spoil too much of this story, beyond saying that it’s superbly done.  It starts as a poignant look at holiday depression but then there’s a twist and then another.  Jessica Schroeder gives a great performance.

And finally, Death Day Party (directed by Justin M. Seaman) follows a seemingly sweet elderly couple as they celebrate a birthday in a definitely less than sweet way.  Full of rude humor, Death Day Party will appeal to those with an appreciation for the morbid and macabre.

Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories ends with a dedication to Wes Craven, Angus Scrimm, Gunnar Hansen, and Herschell Gordon Lewis.  It’s an appropriate dedication because Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is a film made by people who love horror for viewers who love horror.  Mixing humor with gore, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is a fun celebration of the macabre.

vob2

Film Review: Volumes of Blood (dir by Jakob Bilinski, P.J. Starks, Nathan Thomas Milliner, John Kenneth Muir, Lee Vervoort)


volumes-of-blood-banner

One of the best things about being an independent film reviewer is that you get the chance to try and make sure that good films don’t end up flying under the radar.  Let’s face it — hundreds of worthy films are made every year but many of them never get the attention that they deserve.  They get pushed to the side while critics concentrate on the big studio films with the huge budgets and stars who are usually a year or two away from starring in their own reality show.  Far too often, truly independent films get pushed to the side.

That’s why I love reviewing independent films.  If I can encourage you to seek out (and yes, you do have to be willing to make the effort to seek out good films) and support these films by watching them, then I’ve accomplished something more with my writing than just indulging my own ego.  Of course, the independent films that I recommend have to be good and they have to be entertaining.  If you’re just recommending a film to be nice or because you want to get quoted in a press release, then you’re doing it wrong.  You have to be honest in your reviews because only then will your readers have any reason to believe you when you recommend a film to them.

Take, for instance, Volumes of Blood.  This new horror anthology is currently making the rounds of the festival circuit.  I was lucky enough to get a chance to view a screener.  Was it good?  You bet it was.  Was it entertaining?  Yes, it was.  And that’s why I’m recommending that you keep an eye out for Volumes of Blood and that you make the effort to see it.  The fact that recommending Volumes of Blood also means that I get a chance to support a truly independent film is just a nice fringe benefit.

Volumes of Blood is a horror anthology, a collection of short but loosely connected horror stories.  It starts with a nicely satiric scene of two “teenagers” being menaced in a parked car by your standard knife-wielding maniac.  (I put teenagers in quotes because it’s obvious that neither actor is a teenager and, even more importantly, the film goes out of its way to make sure that you see that neither one of these two are teenagers.)  This scene of slasher film menace leads to a college classroom where a professor with a truly impressive pompadour talks about urban legends.

(No, I’m not going to tell you how the film gets from a slasher film to college classroom, other than to say that it’s a lot of fun.)

We then switch scenes again, to a public library.  Four students are making up urban legends of their own.  Each story is set in the library, each story features a twist at the end, and each story both celebrates and pokes some knowing fun at the conventions of the horror genre.  The first story deals with an energy drink that will literally blow your mind.  The second story — and my personal favorite — is a ghost story.  (Seriously, I jumped when the ghost first appeared.  The entire film really makes good use of that library setting, with its long rows of books and creepy atmosphere.)  The third story is a monster tale.  And then the fourth story deals with what happens when a depressed librarian makes the mistake of wishing that her dead boyfriend could come back to life.

(The fourth story also features my favorite line.  When asked if he really believes in demons and witchcraft, a character replies, “I’m Irish luv, we invented this shite.”*)

And then, after the fourth story, there’s a huge twist and I really wish I could tell you all about it because it’s really clever and it leads to some of the film’s best metatextual moments.  But I’m not going to spoil it for you because I want you to track down this movie and be surprised by it like I was.  So, I’ll just say that you won’t see it coming and it elevates the entire film.

It may seem strange to use a word like “likable” when talking about a horror movie but that really is the best way to describe Volumes of Blood.  It’s a film that was obviously made by people who love horror films and who understand that the best response to someone mentioning The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is to reply, “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre.”  The film is full of references to other classic horror movies and it even mentions an imaginary film — The Dewey Deathmal System — that I personally would love to see.

Check out its Facebook page by clicking here and keep an eye out for Volumes of Blood!

safe_image—-

* My apologies because I originally misquoted that line.  It’s still my favorite line, though!